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TipSheet: Austin City Council, 3.24.22

Thursday, March 24, 2022 by Elizabeth Pagano

Having regrouped from a quick spring break that included the return of South by Southwest, Austin City Council will convene today for its regular meeting. As usual, a number of items struck our fancy, and they are duly noted on this TipSheet. However, completist readers will find the entire agenda posted online and ready to be read through in its entirety.

As was true during Tuesday’s work session, we expect a lot of the discussion today may center on the twin crypto resolutions forwarded by Council Member Mackenzie Kelly (Item 55) and Mayor Steve Adler (Item 57). Kelly’s resolution asks the city manager and company to look into whether the city could use cryptocurrency instead of (boring old) money. The mayor’s resolution focuses on “blockchain and other Web3 related technologies, protocols and applications” for a whole host of reasons, including record keeping, community engagement and … a lot of other things. (It’s a long list.) Though both resolutions would only command further study, they faced some pushback on Tuesday, due to things like environmental concerns and a general pondering about whether they were a great use of city staff members’ limited time. We’re expecting a little more on that today, along with amendments from other Council members.

Council Member Paige Ellis has a resolution aimed at fixing the Barton Springs Pool mess, which appears to finally be coming to a head after the parks department announced the pool will be closing Mondays and Wednesdays due to a lack of lifeguards. Ellis’ resolution is targeted at finding (and retaining!) more lifeguards for the Zilker treasure. We expect some discussion in a general “what is to be done?” sense and some discussion about a resolution passed by a parks board committee that supports upping lifeguard salaries to $22 per hour (from $15 per hour). We’ll also be looking at a resolution from Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison that asks the city to prioritize a financial plan for Colony Park.

The big news of the day in zoning (yes, that is a thing) is a slew of valid petitions. For the uninitiated, these petitions mean that the owners of 20 percent of the area within 200 feet of a proposed zoning change oppose the change. These types of zoning changes must be approved by a supermajority of Council, or nine Council members, instead of the usual six. On today’s agenda, we count five petitions. 

For the record, the projects facing a valid petition are a mixed-use proposal at Grady and Brownie that had a very complicated exchange about said petition last time it was at City Council; a rezoning that would allow for office space at 1100 Manlove St.; a St. Elmo rezoning on 8 acres that could produce 520 units of housing; a cool West Austin house that might be preserved against its owners’ wishes; and finally, the proposed (massive!) redevelopment of the 200 South Congress, which will likely be postponed today. In terms of non-petition-y cases, Council will also consider the wisdom of cliffside condos.

Finally, we’ll note that a proposal to change Vertical Mixed Use zoning intended to encourage affordable housing will be postponed until April 7, due to a posting error. By all indications, the Downtown Austin Community Court item that would locate said court in the old City Hall will also be postponed, though Council may discuss it for a bit today.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here. This TipSheet has been corrected since publication to clarify a zoning address and to back away from an assertion that Barton Springs Pool is “downtown.” 

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